CID Graduate Student and Postdoctoral Fellow Working Paper No. 25

Linking Knowledge with Action Using Community Facilitators to Span Boundaries: Lessons from East Africa

David Nkedianye, Dickson Kaelo, Robin Reid, Moses Neselle, Leonard Onetu, Ogeli Makui, Mohammed Said, Steven Kiruswa, Patti Kristjanson, Ololtisatti Kamuaro, Shem Kifugo, Nancy Dickson, and William Clark

December 2008

A publication of CID's Sustainability Science Program


Advances of science may take much longer to translate into helpful societal actions without deliberate linkages among policy makers, practitioners, and scientists and an integration of their knowledge systems. Successful projects in sustainable knowledge-based action are not only multi-disciplinary and holistic in their approach, they also engage consistently with the consumers of the knowledge being generated. We present a model for integrating scientific and indigenous knowledge and strongly linking that knowledge with community and policy action to balance poverty alleviation and wildlife conservation in Maasai pastoral systems of East Africa. This model uses ‘community facilitators’ who act as ‘boundary-spanning’ individuals, linking pastoralist communities, scientists, and policy makers. Our experience indicates that there can be accelerated progress if the project deliberately creates and places a boundary-spanning person or organization at the community-science-policy interfaces to facilitate and promote linking knowledge with action. We found it was critical that the facilitation process ensures that scientists focus on answering important questions from community and policy viewpoints. Key lessons include the need for frequent and strategic community engagement, careful choice of appropriate local boundary spanning persons, the central role of co-production of boundary objects, and the inclusion of incentives for the key stakeholders.

Keywords: community facilitators, boundary spanning, Maasai Pastoralists, policy makers, land use, sustainable poverty alleviation.

JEL codes: 013, 016, 017, 031

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